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3 Insights on the Power and Potential of Web3

Round Editorial

Jad Esber, CEO of koodos labs and Harvard Affiliate, discusses the potential of web3 and how it can create value for users, creators, and enterprises.

If you listen to the hype cycle within tech, you’ve likely heard web3 described as the future of the internet. Importantly, web3 is more than “blockchains” — web3 is user-generated authority, enabled by self-certifying web protocols. These are a superset of technologies that include blockchains, but are not limited to them.

The concept of a decentralized web is not new; rather, web3 is a renewed push to bring us closer to the original vision for the internet and to improve the downfalls of the current internet, which gives the most power to the platforms we use. Jad Esber, Co-Founder & CEO of koodos and an Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, recently joined Round to discuss the potential of web3 and how it can create value for users, creators, and enterprises. Here are three key takeaways.

1. For individual users, web3 gives ordinary people control over their data

In the current version of the internet, tech platforms own users’ data and exploit it for profit — by selling this data to interested parties or using it to deliver targeted ads. Regulation (such as GDPR) is starting to shift the onus to users — for example, a user could request their data from Facebook or Google. With web3, the hope is that a user can access any site on the internet and provision their data for use without a tech platform serving as an intermediary. The idea centers on users having private keys that can control public states.

2. For creators, web3 ties user-generated content to people, not platforms

For a content creator working today, the content you create lives on the platforms where it’s posted.. “the current version of the web is a place where the things we create, the things we consume are tied to the spaces that we occupy.” You could technically take down your YouTube video and bring it to another platform, but it doesn’t “travel” with you — current client-server setups mean that our content is tied to the app, not to us. But with shared infrastructure and self-certifying protocols, your content and what you create can travel with you, regardless of what app you’re using. Esber likens this experience to our relationship with ownership in the real world. Imagine you have a poster on your bedroom wall, he says. In the current iteration of the internet, web 2.0, the poster stays stuck where you first put it up, but in web3, you can easily remove the poster and transfer it to another wall in another room and transfer relevant context around it too. Web3’s user-generated authority gives control over content to the creator and could make it easier for artists and creators to prove ownership and authorship of a given piece of content.

3. For enterprises, web3 allows for new models that support both platforms and users

According to Esber, web 2.0 incentivizes businesses to “extract as much data from users as possible and use that [information] to personalize the experience or to sell ads against it.” But in a future where the web prioritizes privacy and allows users to control their data, businesses operating on this model will need to adapt their approach to growth and monetization. Esber sees this as an incredible opportunity to redefine the relationship between companies and consumers to create more value for both. “Web3 doesn’t mean the death of advertising,” he says, “it means that users can more effectively consent to it.” Esber imagines companies on web3 will attract customers by creating products people need and love. When data is completely portable, he says, businesses might focus more on the interface of an app or on building communities around a product to develop a sense of brand loyalty so that people choose their app over others. Charging models, where customers pay to access apps or platforms on the web, could also help keep companies profitable. Esber cites open-source software businesses like Red Hat that provide services on top of freely available software as a successful precedent of this monetization strategy for infrastructure companies that are built on top of open protocols.

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